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NIH Awards $31 Million for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology and Immunogen Discovery

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012
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Duke University and Scripps Research Institute to lead new consortium.

Duke University of Durham, N.C., and the Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, Calif., have been awarded $31 million in first-year funding to lead the new Centers for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID). The funding is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The initiative is projected to receive up to $186 million or more over the next six years. The goal is to accelerate HIV vaccine development by supporting multidisciplinary research into immune responses that prevent or contain HIV infection and generating model vaccine components that can induce these protective immune responses.

CHAVI-ID, a consortium of researchers at universities and academic medical centers, will build on advances made in several laboratories, including the  Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), based at Duke University. CHAVI’s seven-year funding award from NIAID ended in June.

“In recent years, considerable progress has been made in identifying antibodies that can prevent a broad range of HIV strains from infecting human cells,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “CHAVI-ID will attempt to understand how those antibodies and other immune responses work to protect against HIV infection, providing scientists with a rational foundation for designing what we hope will be an effective HIV vaccine.”

At Duke, under principal investigator Barton F. Haynes, M.D, researchers will identify and target the vulnerabilities of HIV to specific immune system responses and use that information to design vaccines that induce protective immunity at the time and location of HIV transmission. Their work will largely focus on inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies that can prevent HIV infection as well as on generating protective T-cell and innate immune system responses.  One strategy will be to evaluate the maturation pathways of these rarely occurring neutralizing antibodies, and use those pathways to help design vaccines that can elicit protective antibody responses. The program will encompass 9 components: operations and management, genomics, lineage-based structural design, B-cell biology, neutralizing antibody development and sequencing, mucosal biology, virus biology, computational biology, and nonhuman primate testing. The initial award, supported by grant number UM1AI100645-01, is for $19.9 million for fiscal year 2012.

At Scripps, under principal investigator Dennis R. Burton, Ph.D., researchers will conduct B-cell and antibody research to guide the development of immunogens—substances that evoke an immune response—that can elicit protective antibodies in animal models. Additionally, the scientists will concentrate on CD4-positive T cell research and attempt to harness these cells’ direct antiviral activity, as well as their ability to help other cells produce antibodies. Five components will contribute to the program: operations and management, glycobiology (the study of the structure, biosynthesis, and biology of carbohydrates), nonhuman primate testing; concept-to-clinic discovery, and data management. The initial award, supported by grant number UM1AI100663-01, is for $11.1 million for the 2012 fiscal year.

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